Gun control

The justice system in the UK and abroad

Re: Gun control

Postby Jonathan » 04 May 2016, 21:50

Hello Sean,

I also found what you wrote to be quite interesting, especially since you have real knowledge of the problem, as opposed to merely theoretical. Of course, I fully agree with most of what you say. Considering where I live, it's no surprise that I find an armed and trained citizenry to be very reassuring.

That said, I've never really been convinced that the presence of guns in the hands of the populace acts as a deterrent against tyranny by a government like that of the United States. I agree with what you say about not giving up an option which might be useful in the last resort, but there is also the complementary risk: that the guns will be used as a first or second resort, and bring about disaster in a situation where another approach (e.g. a Ghandian strategy, or a Tianaman square moment) might have borne fruit.

At this moment in time, a man with a gun might deter one police officer from taking liberties. But that officer will be back a few hours later with a dozen others, and what will you achieve? The government can concentrate its force against any individual citizen, or group of citizens, or even against a whole State should it try to secede. The citizens have no unified command, no discipline, even no agreement as to what constitutes a casus belli. They will be destroyed piecemeal. And if the government shares this view, then the threat of an armed uprising will not deter it at all.

Of course, there's no telling what the future may hold. Guns may prove to be a lifesaver against a very different threat 30 years from now. But against the government... well, I know a lot of people hold this view, but I've never really bought into it myself.
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Re: Gun control

Postby SeanK » 13 May 2016, 03:38

Howdy Jonathan,

Well, certainly one or a few people armed with guns- no matter what sort- aren't going to be able to defeat the vast machinery of government- that applies to any government or pseudo-government, not just the US. One of the things I point out to crooks who are spoiling for a fight- as a last ditch effort to resolve the situation peacefully- is that while they may well beat me, they won't beat the rest of the department who will be coming in afterward. It sometimes works, though rarely as most of the sort I deal with are not, shall we say, perfectly rational.

My main point, however, was that the threat of force would result in a corresponding use of force in return (actually significantly more force in most cases, as wise military leaders believe "overkill" is just another way of saying "keep my troops safer"). This in turn would cause others to take note of the use of force and question its validity. This happens all the time in policing- there's always some controversy about any police shooting, and correspondingly stronger controversy the higher the level of force used. Now, much of the time this is ill-informed- but think of it this way. If known gang members with lengthy criminal records getting shot by police can spawn an entire movement, what would a few dozen- or hundred, or thousand- regular Joe Citizens getting killed do? Particularly if the government uses its full array of tools- drones, cruise missiles, tanks, aircraft, the works.

This would necessarily be coupled with a political wing- much in the way Sinn Fein acted as the political wing of the IRA (and perhaps still does? I'm not up on recent developments in Ireland, I'm afraid). This example should also demonstrate that these tactics are not necessarily used by good guys, by the way. Most effective would be a tiered approach- standard civil disobedience to present a "soft option" and to gain sympathy, "direct action" (i.e. armed resistance) to provoke the government into extreme measures or measures that could be presented as extreme.

You may recognize this as classic guerrilla tactics, such as used by Mao Tse-tung, Lenin, Trotsky, and the like. However, it was also used extensively by the American colonists when we declared independence from Great Britain- for example, the so-called Boston Massacre was, certainly for the time, quite a justifiable use of force by most accounts, as the British soldiers (who did not have riot shields and helmets) were being pelted by rocks which can seriously injure or kill you.

I do agree wholeheartedly that less violent alternatives should be explored first, and that there is a danger that someone will move to violence more quickly than is necessary. Indeed, I would argue that this is already occurring- there are a number of so-called "militias" and the like out there that- at least rhetorically- see police (e.g. me) as fair game and have been known on occasion to put this belief into practice. This, despite the fact that I pride myself on my respect for civil rights and have never enforced a law that I believed unconstitutional (it helps that while I theoretically am responsible for enforcing federal, state, and local law, in practice we generally only enforce the second two as they cover pretty much ever real-life problem adequately). I don't believe circumstances are dire enough to resort to armed force, with the concomitant loss of life of innocents that would entail. On the other hand, removing the possibility of any sort of effective resistance seems foolish, as well- Gandhi was successful because the British lacked the sort of murderous ruthlessness that would have defeated him (and thank God for that!). Tiananmen Square failed because the Chinese did have the ruthlessness to crush what they viewed as incipient rebellion. Had the Chinese protesters had the means to make a serious fight against the military, they probably would have still lost- but they might have made enough of a stand to encourage others to take up arms and win (or perhaps, even likely, not). For examples of this, one need look no further than the American Revolution and the Texas War of Independence- remember the Alamo.

I should also note that the American military is not set up to effectively fight a large insurgency in the United States- consider: the US military has approximately 1.2 million soldiers, airman, and naval personnel. Relatively few are combat personnel (I don't know the exact percentage, but it would surprise me if it was over 20%). The United States population is approximately 322 million as of 2016. It doesn't take a mathematical genius to realize that a relatively small proportion of active resisters could control significant portions of the (very large) country, even without taking into account the possibility of defections, mutinies, etc. Much of the vaunted military firepower advantage could be neutralized or minimized by classic guerrilla tactics of dispersion and concealment. We also have a lot less of the really fancy bombs than most people think- I recall that we nearly ran out of Tomahawks a few years back, due to budget cuts coupled with Clinton's propensity for throwing them hither, thither, and yon with such casual profligacy.

It would, of course, all rely on sufficient popular support for an armed rebellion to ensure its legitimacy. This, in turn, will take a very severe curtailing of civil rights by the federal government (enforcing transgender bathrooms won't cut it). The recognition of this is what keeps the federal government- oh, my, I nearly said honest- er, less tyrannical than it otherwise could be.
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